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Bordeaux 2013: A Sauternes Start

Time for a litte Sunday morning news. Well, it’s Sunday morning here in Bordeaux, and I spent most of yesterday travelling – an early start for a flight down to London, quite a lot of hanging around at Gatwick airport, and then another flight over to Bordeaux. Happily all went smoothly, and I was settled into my hotel by 4pm. Unfortunately, that didn’t leave a lot of time for tasting.

What to do with my evening then? While some might have danced and drank the hours away at the inauguration party for the new cellars at Château Angélus (pictured below – when I passed by in October last year), I tend to avoid the schmoozing seduction of the parties, grand dinners and similar fêtes that characterise the primeurs week. The Bordelais are very good at this sort of thing, and it is an important part of their relationship with the wine trade. But critics, in my opinion, should consider themselves distinct from the trade. I’m here to taste the wines and report without undue influence. Besides, as we will see, perhaps I just can’t handle the late nights any more.

Château Angélus

Instead, I spent the evening with Bill Blatch, tasting through about 30 Sauternes from the 2013 vintage, from entry-level wines such as Château Partarrieu and Château de Veyres up to grand cru wines including Château Suduiraut, Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey and others. These were then followed by a selection of older wines, all of which had been provided by the châteaux. Unfortunately, we had only really started on these when I had to call it a day, unfortunately missing out on some older bottles, back to the 1960s. I had been travelling since 4am, so I hope I am forgiven this early finish – as I said above, it looks like I just can’t hack them any more!

At the top end the Sauternes of 2013 were very good, very pure in style, with a lot of energy from the acidity – this is an acid-rich vintage. But there are those that show the weaknesses of the vintage, especially at the lower end. Some are ‘fresh’ to the point of being leafy, minty or infused with menthol scents. Others show a saline, salty mineral edge which would probably be delicious in Muscadet, but it doesn’t seem to work here. One or two were unclean, a little grey rot mixed with the botrytis (which was plentiful in 2013), but this problem was confined to the lower price-bracket wines, so this isn’t a re-run of the 2012 vintage, where there were many grey-rot flops. It’s a vintage where there are good wines to be had at the top end, but it is not a buy-blind vintage either. So it is not a repeat of 2001/2009/2010/2011 then.

Today, I’m planning on heading over to taste the wines of Stéphane Derenoncourt first of all, probably followed by some from the Cercle Rive Droite at Château Bellefont-Belcier. Well, we’ll see how the day goes.

2 Responses to “Bordeaux 2013: A Sauternes Start”

  1. Very much looking forward to your reports – unlikely I’ll buy EP this year unless the Bordelais make some major reductions – really, in the ballpark of 2008 release prices – but if I do buy anything it will surely be as a result of your reviews.

  2. Thanks David. Major reductions are certainly required to keep things moving. The Pontet-Canet price (2013 set exactly the same as the 2012) set a worrying trend. Will others follow suit, I wonder? If they do no-one is likely to buy. Négociants have bought Pontet-Canet (they have to, to secure allocations) but how well will they be able to sell it on? Will they have to cut the price to do so? And will they be able to soak up other wines released with the same confident price (and then cut those too)? If the Bordelais get this wrong, not only will the vintage be dead in the water, we could see négociants teeter ever closer to the edge.